Round-up Time!

I’ve been fighting what’s apparently a twenty-four hour bug since midday yesterday. Shivers and aches pained me all through the day and into night, and I didn’t even know if I could make it through a whole day of work today. But I underwent sustained, Cold-Eeze-powered counter-attack, and I feel loads better tonight, remarkably. Zinc is the magical cure for all my threatening colds, I’m finding.

Actually, I’m not back completely at one hundred percent. I’m still tired, and bound to my couch for the most part. But, at the very least, I have my senses about me enough to want to clear out some blogging items that have been hanging around for a while. So this is going to be another round-up style post. Get ready for random.

Expression Engine Yourself

Over the Thanksgiving break, I installed Expression Engine on my server as a follow-up to my recent post about looking for new blogging options, and to see just how complicated it might be. Verdict: it ain’t. In fact, it went smooth as silk. The whole program, as an alternative to Movable Type, is quite alluring, being all slick and what not. I’ve only spent a few hours with it, so I’m not nearly ready to say I’m going to make the switch (I’m still effectively bound to Movable Type thanks to some nontrivial switching costs), but I can tell you this: Expression Engine, at first blush, feels the way I wish Movable Type would feel.

Holiday Bash

This coming Sunday, AIGA New York is hosting its annual holiday bash at Pentagram’s offices here in New York. As is the chapter’s annual custom, we’ll be selling gift wraps and tapes custom-designed by graphic designers. These are invariably beautiful and clever, and they’re priced to move. Be sure to come early to get some of the gift wrap designed by Jason Santa Maria; I think it’s my favorite gift wrap design ever, except for that Superman-themed wrapping paper that my bike came in when I was eight. Anyway, all are welcome, regardless of which side you’ve chosen in the War on Christmas. Please be sure to R.S.V.P. ahead of time, though.

Free Boxes and Arrows

Over at the continually fascinating Boxes and Arrows, Liz Danzico just published a terrific interview with Paco Underhill, the author of “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.” Forget everything bad you’ve heard about Underhill (and if you’ve never heard he could be nicer, then never mind); he’s got valuable wisdom to offer to experience designers everywhere.

This interview is just one example of the amazing breadth of work that Boxes and Arrows continues to publish, year after year, and for the low, low price of free. It’s hard to believe they’ve survived this long; not so much that they made it through the recession in the early part of this decade, but rather that they’ve made it through the subsequent boom, when their all-volunteer editorial staff might otherwise have evaporated in the face of more, ahem, profitable distractions — like paying jobs.

Trouble in I.A. Paradise

Still, all is not rosy in Boxes and Arrows’ world of information architecture. Among the year’s not-to-be-missed threads was Adam Greenfield’s early October rant entitled “To I.A. or Not to I.A.” I’m really late posting about this, but Greenfield is among the bona fide brainiacs of our industry, so when he takes issue with what he sees as an increasing myopia of ambition amongst the sub-group of interaction design practitioners we typically regard as the most intellectually adventurous… well, then, he should be listened to. An example:

“After years in which many of us tried to argue that I.A. potentially constituted a powerful, general skillset applicable to situations far beyond the Web, it seems as if that ‘beyond’ extends only as far as corporate intranets and the like. And this strikes me as a failure, locally and globally.”

Youch. Also, read the comments in the overflow post.

Internet Art Is Dead

Speaking of information architects: my compatriot and main man for all things info-architectural, Elliott Malkin, has received some well-deserved notoriety lately for some of the artwork he’s been developing in his off hours. His latest project is “Cemetary 2.0,” which is “a concept for a set of networked devices that connect burial sites to online memorials for the deceased.” It’s a kind of cross-generational, conceptual twist on social networking. Check out the write-up at Boing Boing and We Make Money Not Art, too.

Dave Cockrum, R.I.P.

Speaking of dead people (I could go on with these segues), I don’t quite know what to make of this: the comic book illustrator Dave Cockrum, who made a name drawing Marvel Comics’ “X-Men” for many years, has just passed away. The weird thing is that, according to some reports, he died wearing Superman pajamas, which adds a potentially distracting oddness to his passing. Nevertheless, I always find it sad to these old comic book artists pass away.

Many of them toiled away for years with only meager pay and a passion for the genre as rewards, never to be properly compensated for the popular mythologies that much lesser men later capitalized upon. Take, for instance, the directorial hack Brett Ratner, who directed the abysmal film “X-Men: The Last Stand,” which drew at least in part on the work that Cockrum did many decades ago. When you think about how much Ratner likely made from the X-Men franchise and then think about how much Cockrum likely made… it doesn’t seem quite right.

  1. Huzzah for EE. You and I are both set to relaunch our sites in EE by about this time 2008.

    I can’t wait to see all the other holiday wrapping papers, and possibly occupy the personal space of some ridiculously talented people. See you Sunday!

    R.I.P. Dave Cockrum : (

  2. Khoi, Jason: You’re both making the switch? Hurrah! You won’t regret it. Khoi, when you get taht EE eureka moment you’ll be singing rom teh rooftops. I’m on hand if either of you get stuck/confused…

  3. Well Jason, I’m an email away if you get stuck. I have no doubts that you and Khoi will be aiming to have EE loop-the-loop and make you breakfast, so if the answers are not available via the excellent forums or knowledge blog, gimme a shout. I got a few tricks up my sleeve.

  4. Excccccellent. I work with a few EE experts already, and have dabbled with it on a few jobs, but I may still come knocking. My biggest concern with anything right now is combatting comment spam. I really don’t want to move to individual users accounts or anything else. I know you have been having some trouble recently with this too.

    Crap, sorry Khoi. I don’t mean to hijack your thread 😀

  5. No problem, Jason, I’m more than happy to host this discussion!

    For others, yes, it was definitely Jason who made me take a closer look at Expression Engine, and consider the idea that switching to a new platform might not be quite as daunting as I’d assumed. He’s an evangelist in his own way.

    So I’ve got a much more open position now, but I’m not ready to leave Movable Type behind just yet.

    That’s mostly due to the switching cost, as I mentioned, but also because, old fashioned kind of guy that I am, I’m a fan of static publishing (wherein the application outputs actual HTML files) and suspicious of dynamic publishing (where HTML pages are generated on the fly by the app). Anyway, when I find the time to devote more energy to really looking into this, then I’ll make a more definitive decision. Thanks!

  6. There is an Akismet plugin, Jeff. Not dug it out myself yet, but numerous emails have confirmed its existence.

    Jason, Of course, you have the mighty Mark Huot at the Cog, don’t you? A sure-fire EE whiz is that chap.

  7. Akismet is awesome, I didn’t know one could use it with EE, I’ll have to check that out.

    I just put up a personal blog in EE in a few days; there’s nearly nothing I can’t do with it. For designers who want total control – and a nice GUI to manage it in – it’s without peer.

    I haven’t had any comment spam problems – the CAPTCHA does a good job of keeping out robots. Member approvals keep out the human spambots.

  8. Yay for EE! I’ve been using it on almost every website I’ve built since the end of 2004 and I have to say it’s amazing. Absolutely amazing.

    You won’t look back, Colly’s right : )

  9. I have used the Akismet plug-in with EE for a few months now, and it’s as terrific as on other platforms.

    Congrats on the planned switch. Yeah for the underdog! Though, I guess with even more people discovering how great EE is, pMachine will soon no longer hold that status.

  10. I made the switch from MT to EE a few years back and out of the “box” EE did everything I wanted MT to do. By the end, I had hacked my version of MT so much that I dreaded updates. For everything that EE does, you can’t beat the price. Of course, I was one of the lucky ones who got a free license ages ago, but even if I hadn’t, I would happily have paid for it.

  11. I’ve been using EE for quite some time, having switched from MT well over a year ago. While there are definitely things about it that irk me, it does allow plenty of room to grow (as opposed to MT, which I got sick of hacking). It’s much more of a CMS than a blogging tool, which is both a blessing (for geeks and control freaks) and a blessing (for everyone else).

  12. Sorry to distract from the EE big-up but could someone have a word with Mr. Stan and get him to post some of the gift wrap please?

  13. I’ve been using EE since the early alpha days. The ability to add custom form fields sold me since day one. Not to mention it is just so damn easy to develop in.

    Khoi I would be happy to walk you through some of the more powerful stuff after an AIGA meeting or something. It might make switching not so hard.

    Also on Colly’s site there have been some great tips.

  14. It is only a matter of time before Expression Engine will take it’s rightful place at the top of the blog/cms market. It’s not just the software, but the thoughtfulness of the development team and user community that I think makes it so remarkable. The combo support/software package really feels like another employee picking up the slack in my weak programming skills.

  15. I’ve got to second Seamus’s comment. In so many ways, EE kicks the ASS off other platforms. It hasn’t let me down yet.

    Used well, it can be an amazing micro-CMS. Huge power.

    And he’s right about the community. Lots of smart people there just waiting to prop you up.

  16. Seamus hit on a big feature for me – the professional support behind the product. I used WordPress until earlier this year when I discovered EE. I haven’t looked back since, and I am an advocate for it wherever I go, like here.

    If I had loads of personal time on my hands, then an open source product with community support would be, uh, fun? But since I have such limited time (2 kids and all) I dig being to post a question in the EE forums and have an intelligent, well-informed answer back in no time at all. I’d gladly pay my $100 for that level of service.

  17. Any chance we’ll be able to purchase the wallpaper online? I’d love to get my hands on some o’ that JSM paper, but making the trip from Chicago to NY ain’t in the cards… Not sure if there’s enough interest, but I thought I’d register mine.

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.